Ever since the debut of this category at the Oscars, the winner has been usually spotted from a mile away. Past winners “Shrek,” “The Incredibles,” and “Wallace and Gromit” have coasted to victories, usually amidst lightweight competition. This year could be different. Let’s take a look at the nominees.

“Cars”
“Happy Feet”
“Monster House”

If you look at the trade publications or LA Times, you’ll notice that both studios have spent heavily in promoting their films. Why? Because “Happy Feet” has a better than average shot at pulling the upset. It’s fresh, it’s cute, and it involves penguins. Could people finally be tired of Pixar and its Microsoft-like dominance over the animated world? “Cars” has received less stellar reviews than its predecessors “Finding Nemo,” “Monster’s Inc.” and “The Incredibles.” This may be the first chink in the Pixar armor.

Or maybe not. “Cars” is still the better reviewed film, and it still packs a decent emotional punch. It’s won the Broadcast and Golden Globe awards for Best Animated Feature. And of course, it’s Disney. “Happy Feet” recently took the BAFTA, but as we’ve seen over the years, the BAFTAS often go in their own direction. We think it’ll be a close race, but Rusteze and company should power through to take the checkered flag.

Our pick: “Cars”